Bangkok protests: Updated info for travelers

Bangkok, Thailand  — With the anti-government “Bangkok shutdown” attempt now underway in the Thai capital, tourists are advised to pay close attention to the situation and avoid all rally sites.
The biggest issue facing visitors is mobility, as protesters have closed off seven major Bangkok intersections. The protests, aimed at forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office, could continue for as long as a month.
Though many areas of the city are unaffected, several of the rally sites are in popular tourism areas, including Silom, Asok and the Ratchprasong intersection — the latter a popular shopping area near major hotels such as the Four Seasons Bangkok, Grand Hyatt Erawan and InterContinental Bangkok.
More: Thailand anti-government protesters begin ‘Bangkok shutdown’
As of Monday morning, all hotels and malls in Bangkok remain open, though opening hours of shopping complexes near protest sites are subject to change.
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“At Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok we are closely monitoring the current situation with regards to the political demonstrations in the city,” said Nicola Chilton, Four Seasons’ senior director of public relations, Asia Pacific.
“As we expect heavy traffic and road transport to be disrupted, we are working hard to make sure there is as little impact on our guests as possible and we have full contingency procedures in place.”
In the days leading up to the planned January 13 mass rallies, the protest group stated they will not close Bangkok’s two major airports, Suvarnabhumi — the main international airport — and Don Muang, which primarily serves low-cost carriers like AirAsia and Nok Air.
The group also said it would still allow ambulances to pass along the roads it intends to block, and that it would not block access to airports and public transportation.
Tourists flying out of Bangkok are advised to leave for the airport four hours before their scheduled flight.
As of Tuesday morning, all expressways remain open. The BTS Skytrain, MRT subway, public ferries and trains are all operating as normal.
According to state media, over 6,000 taxis at Suvarnabhumi Airport will provide 24-hour service to passengers in Bangkok during the shutdown attempt.
“The PDRC has announced that it would allow taxis with Thai flags to run into occupied areas during the Bangkok shutdown which focuses on seven major intersections in the heart of the capital,” says the report.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) advises tourists flying in and out of Bangkok to connect to their destinations using the BTS Skytrain, MRT subway and Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link services.
Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link services to and from the Makkasan City Air Terminal will be increased to 78 Express and 161 City Line trains per day, says the TAT. The Express Line takes 15 minutes while the City Line takes 30 minutes.
Trains will run every 12 minutes during rush hours (6-9 a.m. and 5-8 p.m.) and every 15 minutes during normal hours.
The TAT says the State Railway will also increase train services from Don Mueang Airport to downtown Bangkok, ending at Hua Lamphong Station.
Popular tourist destinations outside of Bangkok, including Phuket, Chiang Mai and Krabi, are unaffected by the protests.
More: Thailand braces for looming Bangkok ‘shutdown’
Government advisories
Thailand’s Foreign Ministry says 45 countries have issued warnings related to the Bangkok protest situation.
Many are advising their citizens to avoid Bangkok completely during the shutdown attempt. Others suggest they stay away from the protest sites, despite the peaceful atmosphere that prevails at most daytime rallies.
“Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can turn confrontational, and escalate into violence without warning,” warned the U.S. Embassy.
“We advise you to plan ahead. It is prudent to ensure you have a week’s supply of cash, keep your mobile communications devices charged, and stock a two week supply of essential items such as food, water, and medicine.”
The UK government has updated its foreign travel advice for citizens as follows: “Political demonstrations continue in and around Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand. Some of these have been violent, including the use of firearms, and there have been casualties.
“The situation is unpredictable, and further protests are expected. There have been calls for an increase in protest action from 13 January, which may cause major disruption to travel on main roads in and around Bangkok. You should take extra care and avoid all protests, political gatherings and demonstrations.”
Tourist assistance
Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism has reportedly set up tourism assistance centers at both Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, where they’ll coordinate with all concerned public and private agencies, including the Tourist Police, the Immigration Bureau, Metropolitan Police Bureau and the Thai Hotels Association.
Help desks will also be set up at the Siam, Phaya Thai, Ekkamai and Wong Wian Yai BTS Skytrain stations as well as the Hua Lamphong MRT subway station.
“Each location will be manned by four Tourist Police officers,” said the TAT.
Tourists can seek assistance by calling the following hotlines.
Tourism Authority of Thailand: 1672
Thai Tourist Police: 1155
Suvarnabhumi Airport Operation Center: +66 (0)2 134 4077
Don Mueang Airport Operation Center +66 (0)2 535 3431
Tourist Assistance Center (temporary): +66 (0)2 401 1111

(Source: CNN)

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